Engagement tools for transforming food systems

Transforming food systems is a bit like cultivating an orchard; it demands an understanding of existing conditions, meticulous planning for each season, setting up best practices through trial and error, and a commitment to the enduring success of the endeavour. From agroecology experts and permaculture designers to local communities with knowledge about the region’s biodiversity, a number of different parties need to be engaged in the venture for it to truly flourish. It’s hard work but the rewards are bounteous! Now, we’re no orchardists with pruning shears and ploughs, but if you’re someone who is looking to make systemic changes to the way our food system works and engage relevant actors in the process, we might have some tools to help you.

While there is no blueprint for engaging stakeholders in food system transformation, we can offer tools that can help you chart your own course. These have been developed, tested, and calibrated over time by researchers and practitioners involved in such endeavours. Below, you can learn more about each objective and the tools connected to them.

But this will likely not be the end of it! Transformation is often a non-linear process, and you might need to revisit various engagement activities and try out a couple of different things before you achieve your goals.

What is food system transformation?

Food system transformation entails wide ranging and radical changes to the existing food systems. These include implementation of transformative food system governance models, supporting radical innovation towards more regenerative, resilient, and plant-based food production and consumption, and enabling a broad and sustained engagement of citizens and other stakeholders in the food system.

Why public engagement and multi-stakeholder collaboration?

Food systems intersect with various aspects of our society and economy, involving a wide array of actors in their functioning and development. Transforming such intricate systems requires active involvement and collaboration from these stakeholders. Thus, advancing public engagement and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the transformation process becomes essential in order to uphold a democratic process, benefit from diverse expertise and viewpoints, and ensure tenable outcomes.

Who is this toolkit for?

With a focus on public engagement and stakeholder collaboration, this toolkit gathers relevant tools for engagement in food system transformation and makes them available in user-friendly formats. The tools within this toolkit are curated to support the processes within various living labs, policy labs, food policy councils, and other similar organisations; in other words – transformative spaces, which attempt to engage stakeholders as a part of food system transformation. The tools offered are diverse in format and can, in some cases, be adjusted to specific contexts.

What are the different levels of engagement?

Engagement in transformative activities can range from providing information to people in an engaging manner, but where the participants don’t have a say. The next step up the ladder involves gathering input from the participants on the problems, challenges, ideas, preferences, etc. (consultation). Participants are given ‘a voice’, but are not enabled to influence decision making directly. The most engaging types of exercises involve co-creation, a process where the participants are partners in the transformation design, implementation and evaluation. They have a seat at the table where decisions are made and can influence those decisions. Different engagement levels relate to different types of tools.

How to use this toolkit?

As you can see below, the public engagement and stakeholder collaboration tools around the process of food system transformation are broken down into five distinct objectives. By clicking on each objective, you can find various curated tools for each objective. If you’re not sure how to how to find tools that are most relevant to your work, this section might be a good starting point. Via the advanced tool search option, you can find tools based on various filters (target group, tool format etc.). In order to offer additional context, most tools are connected with case stories from organisations making use of them.

The five objectives of engagement

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System and stakeholder mapping

The basis of any transformative initiative involves comprehending the current system. This entails acquiring information about local contexts, identifying key challenges and knowledge gaps among stakeholders, mapping pertinent research agendas, programs, and regulations, and ensuring the inclusion of diverse stakeholder perspectives in the analysis.

Visioning and planning

Transformative initiatives need to have directionality. This involves the creation of a collective vision for a future sustainable food system. It also includes developing workable pathways to achieve this vision by creating a roadmap with barriers, facilitators and milestones.


This objective focuses on experimentation and innovation, involving designing and testing promising ideas. Establishing a shared understanding of success criteria and creating a monitoring system for experiments is crucial. Continuous reflection on the process and progress during experimentation enables adjustments to plans based on emerging needs or opportunities.

Continuity and scaling

You are likely to spend time on evaluating the outcomes and impact of your activities, discuss plans for scaling up, and communicate long-term plans with stakeholders.

Awareness raising

Awareness raising is the most common objective of engagement activities and in general has more to do with informing, rather than co-creating. Nevertheless, ensuring that your transformative action is recognized and that it mobilises others is a key part of transformation processes.